Dark Matter Editor Faye Coulman talks us through the soundtrack to her escape from commuting hell...
It’s precisely 7.48am and as I stand on board a crammed tube train wending its rickety, cloyingly humid way toward the seething inner circle of commuter hell that is Oxford Circus, I can already feel a troubling intermingling of claustrophobia and simmering agitation bubbling up inside of me. On its exit from the next station, the train lurches violently into motion, throwing me off balance, and I grab a disquietingly greasy handrail in a desperate attempt not to land into the lap of the corporate banker type sitting directly behind me. Blinking in harsh, detention centre-like strip-lighting, I mumble a toneless apology, studiously avoid eye contact and brace myself for another soul-destroying daily commute…
Though the conversation of the perky university students chatting at approximately 5,000 decibels to my left is frustratingly audible throughout the first leg of my journey, I’m able to seek a little solace in the bristling, darkly abrasive adrenaline fest that is MANTAR’s ‘The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze.’ With its razor-edged central hook writhing violently atop a churning undertow of sinewy groove, ‘Age of the Absurd’ floods the senses with a heady mix of undiluted aggression and Darkthrone-flavoured accents frosty enough to chill the very marrow in the bones. Then it’s through raggedly frenetic lines of reverb that the two-man German wrecking crew barrel headlong into the punk-tinged battery of ‘Seek + Forget’ before the coldly melodic flourishes of ‘Midgard Serpent’ drench its swaggering rock riffs in wintry atmospherics. Splicing and blending its varying strains of hardcore punk, black metal and sludge with fluidly instinctive ease, the raw, crackling energy that underlines this deliciously dark hybrid makes for exhilarating listening.
But while every track drags me ever-deeper into a delirious, spiralling netherworld of darkly visceral ultra-violence, my enjoyment grinds to an abrupt halt as a frantic mob of commuters shove their way onto the already heavily crammed carriage I’m presently occupying. So I’m forced to hit pause as I’m rammed headlong into the gentleman standing in front of me whilst desperately fighting to avoid contact with the stranger’s crotch simultaneously pressed up against me from behind. Standing here trapped in this unwitting subterranean re-enactment of The Human Centipede, a sea of weary, dead-eyed anonymous faces swimming before me, I’m unsurprisingly now craving my next violently cathartic fix. Swiping through my ever-expanding catalogue of hate-filled metallic anthems, I quickly settle on a long-time favourite of mine: TYPE O NEGATIVE’s ‘Gravity.’ And as frantic strains of shrill, bone-scraping reverb explode into a ragged barrage of hardcore riffing, I’m once again struck by the crippling existential weight and desperation that underpins every howling, tombstone-heavy inch of this early classic.
But now to more recent discoveries, the first of which originating from Russian label Satanath Records’ rich and expansive trove of underground talent. With its densely muscular grooves and turbulent, Decapitated-style guitar phrases accelerating into a blinding frenzy of blastbeats, VOMITILE’s ‘Carnal Surgery’ leaves me instantly dizzy with adrenaline. Below a gargling cacophony of screams, the various churning, darkly contorting textures of ‘Nothing But Pain’ gather pounding momentum before violently quickening into a bewildering climax of knife-edged shredding. Combining both the classic, visceral rawness of old school death metal with a sharpness of production and compositional intelligence that’s unmistakably of the present, you’d be hard pressed to find a more savage and instantly appealing slab.
Finally stepping off the train and climbing a heavily congested escalator to emerge dazed and blinking in cold and colourless morning light, I’m eager to sample a couple of tracks from the enticingly named REALM OF WOLVES before concluding my journey. Having happened upon the Hungarian doomsters following an automated recommendation from Bandcamp, a single glimpse at the hauntingly beautiful artwork adorning its cover was enough to sucker me in and instantly compel me to download it. And as ‘Oblivion’s’ opening deluge of lush, darkly cascading riffage floods my ears with wistfully stirring atmospherics, it seems this is one rash and impulsive move I won’t be regretting any time soon.
Displaying all the sumptuous, exquisitely fragile atmospherics you’d expect of such blackgazing titans as Alcest and Wolves In The Throne Room, ‘Translucent Stones’ audibly glimmers with tenderly accentuated, delicately unfurling progressions and restlessly stirring echoes. Elsewhere, the Hungarians’ gnarly, delectably blackened instincts violently come to the fore, with ‘Twelve Miles to Live’ igniting the senses in an incandescent blaze of hyperblasting fury. And as its elegantly orchestrated tangle of snaking, melodic guitars takes hauntingly mesmerising hold, few albums so utterly transport the listener to a place and time far removed from this grey and weary earthly realm.